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Council members hear reports, consider rezonings

by Susan Holland | June 14, 2022 at 7:22 a.m.

GRAVETTE -- Members of the Gravette City Council heard reports from several department heads at their Committee of the Whole meeting Thursday evening, June 9.

Chuck Skaggs, chief of police, reported May was a slow month with lots of rain. He reported that school resource officer Josh Crane has been promoted to corporal and is supervising all Gravette SROs. He also reported giving a letter of commendation to officer Braxton Handle for the excellent way he handled a high-speed chase in March.

Skaggs displayed a holster that his department is using and said new firearms will be coming soon, both purchased with funds from a recent donation. He presented each council member with two patches, one of the old style and one of the new style now used on Gravette uniforms.

David Keck, building inspector/code enforcement officer, reported quite a few homes on Dallas Street are almost complete and will be ready for occupancy in a couple of months. He said he is still working on the new walking and bike trail at Pop Allum Park and it should go out to bid soon.

Richard Sutherland, water and sewer department manager, said his workers are trying to catch up on installing water taps between rains. He reported the control panel on the main lift station generator had gone out and was down for a day but has now been repaired. More meters have been ordered but he is having difficulty getting them.

Karen Benson, library director, reported Trike Theatre will be presenting a performance at Pop Allum Park on June 16. She said registration for the summer reading program will begin June 16 and reported a $4,000 grant has been received from Altrusa to help fund it. A $140 grant has been received from the Arkansas Arts Council to provide for a magician to perform during the program.

Fire Chief David Orr reported his department has responded to 370 calls so far this year. He talked about a vehicle extrication class his department recently conducted and said all equipment has been received to convert an old tanker at the Hiwasse fire station to a tanker/pumper. He also reported hiring Travis Harp, a new full-time firefighter and paramedic.

Tim Dewitt, streets and parks department manager, reported that mulch has been spread at Pop Allum Park and the Hiwasse park and his workers have been busy mowing between rains. He said they have been preparing for the July 4th celebration which will return to Pop Allum Park this year. He also reported the pool is going well, with 200 visitors the previous day.

In old business, Mayor Kurt Maddox reported the large-scale development plan for Dollar General is almost ready for approval and said that Kenneth Fariss has requested an appeal of the planning commission's denial of his tract split at 13841 Jenkins Corner Road. The denial was made partly because of being unsure whether there was a proper septic system on the property and Fariss has provided evidence of testing and reports that septic tanks onsite are working properly.

Council members reviewed an ordinance adopting a new code of ordinances for the city which will be voted on at the June 23 council meeting. A separate fee list was attached and fees will no longer be listed in ordinances.

David Keck reviewed several rezoning requests. John Mitchael requests to rezone property at 509 First Ave. S.W. and at 409 First Ave. S.W. from R-1, residential, to C-2, commercial, and requests a variance for the property at 509 First Ave. S.W. in order to display and sell portable buildings on the site. Mayor Maddox expressed concern that this use might not be a good fit with new businesses such as Taco Bell and O'Reilly's just across the highway, and Keck commented that the planned walking and bike trail would border the property and entry and exit to the property by heavy truck traffic might be undesirable across the trail.

Another rezoning request was presented for property owned by Kyle and Sam Evans on Highway 279 N. Keck reported the property had been split within the past few years and zoned commercial when the owner had a prospective buyer. When the sale fell through, Evans requested and received a rezoning to residential but now he wants to return to a commercial designation. Regarding a tract split for roughly 10 acres owned by Gerry Craddock at 16194 Smith Road. Keck said that the owner had previously proposed a split into three one-acre tracts and this is a revised proposal for one one-acre and one two-acre tract at the west end of the property.

Mayor Maddox announced that Derek Estep and Bill Mattler have come to the end of their terms on the planning commission and said both have done a good job. Maddox recommended reappointing both to the commission, and council members agreed to approve their reappointment. A vote confirming their reappointment will be made at the June 23 council meeting.

Maddox presented a Springdale resolution affirming the city's commitment to life and designating the city as a pro-life city and asked if there was interest in passing something similar for Gravette. Councilman Jeff Davis said he felt such matters should be a personal decision and the city should not be involved. "City government should be nonpartisan," he said, "and that tends to be a partisan issue."

Finance director Carl Rabey presented a resolution approving adjustments for the 2022 budget that will be voted on at the June 23 council meeting. Rabey presented the May financial report and said there was a $35,000 surplus in the general fund for the month. Property tax income was $61,000 and school resource income $32,000 for the month, and sales tax was up $23,000 over a four-month average, he reported.

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